From Fri 17 May
Sundance Grand Jury Winner
|Made in Britain £7
“Lean’s sharp direction and impeccable performances all round transform a slight comedy into a timeless delight.” Time Out
A “Hobson’s Choice,” as any slang expert will tell you, is no choice at all. In this enduring and endearing 1953 film, diffident hero Willie Mossop (John Mills) finds that he does have a choice over how he’ll conduct his life, after all. Mossop is the skillful assistant to domineering boot-shop owner Hobson (the impeccable Charles Laughton). Hobson lords it over his employees and three daughters by day, and props up the bar in his local hostelry by night. Ever the penny-pincher, Hobson has decreed that none of his three daughters may marry, saving himself the expense of providing them with stakes in life. Laughton’s ”old-maid” daughter Brenda DeBanzie breaks free of her father’s tyranny and marries Mills, and they set up a rival boot shop when her father refuses her a dowry. From her vantage point across the street, she determines to help her younger sisters (including a young Prunella Scales) outsmart the old tyrant and find husbands themselves.
The winner of the British Film Institute “Best Film” award of 1954, Hobson’s Choice chalked up another international success for director David Lean. Slant Magazine says of this characteristically British classic: “Correctly heralded as one of the giants of cinema, David Lean simply knew where to put the camera—to tell stories through images that convey a sense of mood, place, character, and conflict. Early in Hobson’s Choice, a drunken middle-aged shoe-store owner (Charles Laughton) staggers home drunk, attempting not to wake his three daughters, but the oldest is waiting for him to usher him to bed. His pride is greater than her moral prurience, and brushing her aside, he does a brisk, reckless, and wobbly dash up the single flight of stairs, and Lean’s camera makes a vertiginous movement as it cranes up, as if leading Hobson to the top step, where he nearly takes a drunken spill but nimbly pirouettes. The moment is pure Lean, in that it’s a breathtaking image that’s also empirically British (the character, though lower class, is willful in his attempt to retain the upper hand with his daughter) and consummately well acted.”